Santa BarbaraUnited States of America

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Santa Barbara is a palm-lined city on the Californian coast, famous for its historic Spanish mission, wide sandy beaches and distinctly Mediterranean charm.

Sandwiched between the Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, Santa Barbara is a popular tourist destination on the Pacific Coast Highway. With over 300 days of sunshine each year and a warm Mediterranean climate, Santa Barbara is often called the American Riviera.

Santa Barbara attracts everyone from laid-back surfers and the young, vibrant student crowd to the well-heeled traveller and celebrity set.

The wide boulevards are lined with palms, quaint red-roofed homes and boutique hotels in old haciendas. Wander along the waterfront between Butterfly Beach and the Santa Barbara’s East and West Beaches.

Say hello to the Masai giraffes at Santa Barbara Zoo, renowned as one of the best small zoos in the US, before stopping off for a lunch on Stearns Wharf, the city's historic wooden pier lined with seafood restaurants and waterfront bars.

Take an afternoon to head north of downtown to one of the city's most iconic sights, the Mission Santa Barbara. This imposing pink-and-white church built by Spanish missionaries dates back to the 18th century and has a mission-era museum, a sacred garden and a Chumash art gallery.

Another highlight is the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, a stunning Spanish Revival building with a museum and an 85-foot watch tower with sweeping views of the city and the ocean.

Thanks to its year-round temperate climate, Santa Barbara is very much an outdoor city and the many city parks, like the beachfront Chase Palm Park, encourages a healthy lifestyle. Head south to Carpinteria, a sleepy beach town famous for its world-class surf beaches. Or go west to Goleta, home of the University of California's Santa Barbara campus, and the city's airport.

Santa Barbara's famed celebrity set lives in the stylish beachfront suburb of Montecito, where you’ll see gated estates, hip neighbourhood restaurants, and the quirky Lotusland botanical gardens, once owned by Madame Ganna Walska, an eccentric Polish opera singer. Book ahead and take a guided tour around these fascinating gardens which include over 900 rare cycads, fruit orchards and a life-size topiary zoo.

Santa Barbara County is an easy region to explore. It has a reliable bus network across the city and to the beaches, as well as out to the suburbs. Or hop on Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner train, a coastal service which heads to Solvang in the Santa Ynez Valley, known as Santa Barbara wine country.

After a day of exploring Santa Barbara's old missions, art galleries and designer shopping malls, or hanging out on the beach, head downtown to State Street and the many SoCal bars and restaurants.

Santa Barbara is an ideal destination for a few days en route along the scenic Californian coast, or to use as a base for a longer stay exploring the wine country and mountain region. Santa Barbara has a wide variety of accommodation, ranging from budget hotels and inns to swanky five-star beach resorts.

Where to stay in Santa Barbara

Montecito, Santa Barbara, California, United States of America
trover photo by Heather Kennedy

Montecito

5/5Exceptional!(4 area reviews)

The pristine beaches and ample dining options are top of the list for many visitors to Montecito. A stop by Los Padres National Forest or Butterfly Beach might round out your trip.

Montecito
Santa Barbara Beach, Santa Barbara, California, United States of America
trover photo by Gerard Nastor

Santa Barbara Beach

4.5/5Wonderful!(67 area reviews)

Santa Barbara Beach is known for its stunning beaches, and you can see some sights area like Stearns Wharf and Santa Barbara Zoo.

Santa Barbara Beach
East Beach, Santa Barbara, California, United States of America
trover photo by Gerard Nastor

East Beach

4.5/5Wonderful!(18 area reviews)

East Beach is beloved for its stunning beaches. Take some time to explore sights in the area like Santa Barbara Zoo and Chase Palm Park.

East Beach
The Funk Zone, Santa Barbara, California, United States of America
trover photo by Dan Alvarado

The Funk Zone

5/5Exceptional!(6 area reviews)

Travellers come to The Funk Zone for its beaches, and you can see top attractions like Santa Barbara Art Foundry and MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation while you're in town.

The Funk Zone
Lower State, Santa Barbara, California, United States of America
trover photo by Melanie Hartshorn

Lower State

5/5Exceptional!(2 area reviews)

While visiting Lower State, you might make a stop by sights like Moreton Bay Fig Tree and Reagan Ranch Center.

Lower State
Upper East, Santa Barbara, California, United States of America

Upper East

5/5Exceptional!(4 area reviews)

While visiting Upper East, you might make a stop by sights like Mission Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara Natural History Museum.

Upper East

Top hotels in Santa Barbara

Estimated price for 1 night / 2 adults
Hotel Corque
Hotel Corque
4 out of 5
400 Alisal Rd., Solvang, CA
£87
per night
Mar 2 - Mar 3

Situated in Solvang, this hotel is within a 5-minute walk of Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum and Solvang Festival Theater. Hans Christian Andersen Museum and ...

4.6/5Exceptional! (3,001 reviews)

"Very good location, room was big and clean. very nice pool, comfortable stay."…"

Reviewed on 25 Feb 2020

Hotel Corque
Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort
Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort
4 out of 5
633 E Cabrillo Blvd, Santa Barbara, CA
£186
per night
Mar 30 - Mar 31

Located in East Beach, this beach hotel is 0.5 mi (0.9 km) from Santa Barbara Zoo, and within 3 mi (5 km) of Presidio Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara County ...

4/5Very Good! (2,059 reviews)

"Everything was terrific and the hot chocolate from room service was the best ever! Great helpful staff and incredibly clean and the beds were amazingly comfortable!!!!❤️❤️❤️❤️ The best ever 10 out of 10 for everything!!! No complaints!!!"…"

Reviewed on 25 Feb 2020

Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort
Montecito Inn
Montecito Inn
4 out of 5
1295 Coast Village Rd, Santa Barbara, CA
Free cancellationReserve now, pay when you stay
£136
per night
Mar 15 - Mar 16

This family-friendly Santa Barbara hotel is located near the airport, within 1 mi (2 km) of Butterfly Beach, Fernald Point and Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic ...

4.2/5Excellent! (1,698 reviews)

"It was well located. Room was noisy and needed updating. Breakfast not good."…"

Reviewed on 25 Feb 2020

Montecito Inn

Popular things to do in Santa Barbara

University of California-Santa Barbara
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University of California-Santa Barbara

4.5/5(2 reviews)

Explore the campus of University of California-Santa Barbara, a top university in Santa Barbara. Amble around the area's beautiful beaches or seek out the cycling trails.

Carpinteria State Beach
Image for Carpinteria State Beach

Carpinteria State Beach

4/5(18 reviews)

Nothing says holiday like spending a lazy day at Carpinteria State Beach, a popular beach in Carpinteria. Visit the shops and top-notch restaurants in this family-friendly area.

Santa Barbara Zoo
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Santa Barbara Zoo

Why not visit the animals who live at Santa Barbara Zoo and see why this is a favourite attraction in Santa Barbara? Wander the beautiful beaches and seaside in the area.

Stearns Wharf
Image for Stearns Wharf

Stearns Wharf

4/5(31 reviews)

Explore the waterfront of Stearns Wharf and enjoy other activities such as cycling in Santa Barbara. Wander the area's beautiful beaches or simply enjoy one of its top-notch restaurants.

Goleta Beach
Image for Goleta Beach

Goleta Beach

4/5(2 reviews)

Nothing says holiday like spending a lazy day at Goleta Beach, a popular beach in Santa Barbara. Visit the popular zoo and top-notch restaurants in this walkable area.

Lake Cachuma
Image for Lake Cachuma

Lake Cachuma

4.5/5(4 reviews)

Explore the great outdoors at Lake Cachuma, a popular spot to commune with nature in Santa Barbara. Attend a sporting event or simply enjoy the wineries while you're in the area.

Top activities in Santa Barbara

Tastings at 400+ West Coast Wineries (Priority Wine Pass)
Image for Tastings at 400+ West Coast Wineries (Priority Wine Pass)

Tastings at 400+ West Coast Wineries (Priority Wine Pass)

£31
Per adult
Kayaking Santa Barbara's Waterfront
Image for Kayaking Santa Barbara's Waterfront

Kayaking Santa Barbara's Waterfront

80% of travellers recommend
£42
Per adult
Santa Barbara Funk Zone Food & Photography Tour
Image for Santa Barbara Funk Zone Food & Photography Tour

Santa Barbara Funk Zone Food & Photography Tour

100% of travellers recommend
£84
Per adult

Reviews of Santa Barbara

4.5

Top Destination

5 - Excellent
49
5 - Excellent 63.63636363636363%
4 - Good
22
4 - Good 28.571428571428573%
3 - Okay
5
3 - Okay 6.4935064935064934%
2 - Disappointing
1
2 - Disappointing 1.2987012987012987%
1 - Terrible
0
1 - Terrible 0%

5/5 - Excellent

Verified traveller

Nov 29, 2019

Don’t expect Santa Barbara to be a cheap place to stay.

4/5 - Good

Verified traveller

Sep 21, 2019

Very nice seaside city.

5/5 - Excellent

Verified traveller

Sep 18, 2019

A must place to go.

5/5 - Excellent

Verified traveller

Sep 18, 2019

Stunning area to visit, highly recommend

4/5 - Good

Verified traveller

Sep 9, 2019

Really nice area if you are looking to chill out and relax.

5/5 - Excellent

Verified traveller

Aug 27, 2019

Very family friendly and lovely beach and restaurants

Read travel guides and advice on visiting Santa Barbara

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